Postcard From An Earthquake

A reported rumor that Tuesday's strong earthequake caused a tilt in the Washington Monument is unconfirmed.

When we talk about earthquakes in Washington, we’re usually speaking metaphorically, referring to some political upheaval.

But today, we in the nation’s capital got hit by the real thing: a 5.9 tremor centered more than 80 miles away in rural Virginia.

Folks from California will scoff, but an earthquake of that magnitude is pretty unheard of here.

The quake prompted mass evacuations from office buildings around Washington which recalled the mass exodus nearly a decade earlier on Sept. 11, 2001.

Unlike that day, the earthquake caused little damage and none of the casualties of a terrorist attack.

Still, like 9/11, today’s earthquake demonstrated just how fragile the region’s infrastructure is.

When the quake struck this afternoon, I was at my office building just outside the city while my wife was home on vacation.

Immediately, I tried to call, and then text her, looking for reassurance about her and our kids.

Voice calls got an “all circuits are busy” type response, and we were able to exchange only sporadic text messages. It was 30 minutes or more before we had any meaningful communication. I’m happy to report all is fine. My wife was a bit rattled, so to speak, and the worst was only that the quake woke up my 22-month-old from her nap. My older daughter was running around outside and didn’t even feel it.

Meanwhile, the earthquake and the evacuations aggravated rush hour, which are usually a slog to begin with around here. The Metro, our subway system here, was reduced to crawling along at 15 mph.

All’s well that ends well here, as they say.

The jams in communication and traffic here today wound up being nothing more than a frustration and inconvenience.

But, as in any such situation, I hope next time that those limitations of our infrastructure don’t have more tragic consequences.

Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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One Response to Postcard From An Earthquake

  1. Glad you’re okay Scott. As someone who has lived in SoCal, yes, 5.8 is smaller than some Californians have been trhough, but nothing to scoff about. I have to say the Twitter feeds coming from the area were amusing though.